Amman, 3 September 2020 – Amidst unprecedented circumstances, and in the absence of the participating filmmakers, jury members and guests from abroad due to travel restrictions, the Closing Awards ceremony of the Amman International Film Festival – Awal Film was held yesterday, ending an eleven-day event in the Jordanian Capital. The festival aims to acknowledge first-timers in various categories, a theme that is rarely focused upon in the Arab World.
Yesterday’s ceremony was held at The Royal Film Commission – Jordan in the presence of Princess Rym Ali, President of the Festival, and a very limited number of guests, in line with social distancing regulations. These same safety rules have forced the festival to adapt its screening setup by showcasing 39 films in three newly established drive-in cinemas and one open-air theater, while rescheduling some of its screenings to respect new curfew hours, introduced on the eve of the opening.
At the awards ceremony, the Juries – made up of Jordanian, Arab and international professionals – announced the winners in recorded statements, followed by the screening of “Luxor” by the Jordanian-British director Zeina Durra. The ceremony was presented by the Jordanian artist Zain Awad and livestreamed on the Facebook page of the Festival.
The whole Festival’s program managed to maintain its previously planned content in its entirety and most screenings were sold out. Commenting on this unusual inaugural edition, the President of the Festival, Princess Rym Ali, said: «There were films of high quality in competition and I congratulate the recipients of our Black Iris awards, though I am sure it cannot have been easy for our professional juries to reach a decision. I am grateful to them and excited for the filmmakers that participated in this Festival and its activities and I am extremely proud that the Festival’s team produced such a seamless event. The positive response from the audience tells us how important access to film culture remains at all times. »
The Jury composed of Srdan Golubovic, Saba Mubarak and Sarim Fassi-Fihri granted the Black Iris Award for Best Arab Feature Narrative Film, along with a cash award of US $20,000, to “You Will Die at Twenty” by the Sudanese director Amjad Abu Alala. The film was selected “for the beautifully made and unexpected film about fate and freedom.” This is Abu Alala’s debut work, for which he has already reaped many international awards.
For “the intimate, but brave story of the relation between father and son, and the delicate and subtle director’s vision”, a Special Mention in the same category went to the Saudi Film “Last Visit” by Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan in the Documentary section, the Black Iris Award for Best Arab Documentary went to “Ibrahim, a Fate to Define” by Lina Alabed. The Jury, headed by Andrea Luka Zimmerman and including Mahmoud Al Massad and Nadia Kamel, praised this first-time work: “A forbidden topic. Through a painful personal journey, we enter the world of a disappeared father and political terror that trembles into generations after. The filmmaker confronts the complexity of her feelings weaving a fine thread between the personal and the public, the human and the political, between the disappeared father and the lost place – Palestine leaving us uncomfortable – as we ought to be.” The Palestinian director received a cash award of US $15,000, in addition to the Black Iris trophy.
The Egyptian documentary “The Profession” by Ramez Youssef received the Jury’s Special Mention for its “very daring topic, leading us to the hidden world, into the depths of society through the belly dance profession that is very hard to reach.”
“Huda” a Jordanian short film directed by first-time director May Al-Ghouti got The Black Iris Award for Best Arab Short and received the cash prize of US $5,000. “Our award film uses the cinematic language of image, sound and drama beautifully as the scenes unfold calmly and with reassurance to tell the story of the way in which women can often find themselves trapped and their lives limited by social norms, but also how sometimes resistance is possible.”, said the Jury, headed by Maysoon Pachachi, accompanied by Brandt Andersen and Najeh Hassan.
The Special Mention in the same category went to the Iraqi Short “Soul Return” by Muhannad Al-Tayeb. “Soul Return” as the Jury said “is a film that beautifully and hauntingly reflects the horrors of war. The message of this thoughtful film reminds us of the power of short form storytelling.”
Last but not least, the audience voted for its favorite international film, made by a first-time director. “Gaza”, a 2019 documentary by Irish filmmakers Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell (first-time co-director) and portraying the everyday life of Gazan citizens was granted an award of US $5,000 in addition to the Bronze trophy.
It is worth noting that the Amman Film Industry Days concluded on the 26th of August, and nine projects in development or post-production were granted in-kind and cash awards in the value of US $68,500.
Partners of the AIFF : Royal Film Commission-Jordan; Jordan Tourism Board; Abdali Investment and Development; Bank al Etihad; Zain; Pikasso Jordan; Ghiath & Nadia Sukhtian Foundation; Edgo Management Group; Greater Amman Municipality.
Media Partners: Roya TV; Jordan Radio & Television Corporation; Al-Mamlaka TV; Al-Raya Media Group; Mazaj FM.